[wp-hackers] RSS Decisions

Danny Ayers danny.ayers at gmail.com
Tue Jan 17 14:36:59 GMT 2006

Pasted from my (WordPress) blog, that version has the links and rather
better formatting...

I hear from Uldis and Harry there is talk of dropping RSS 1.0 support
from WordPress. Here's my €0.02.

The "way too old" argument is empty. "It confuses the users" suggests
that more work is needed on autodiscovery tools, not that the user's
options should be reduced. The "RSS2 and Atom are both competent feed
formats. All feed readers these days are built to understand one or
both of them." argument isn't unreasonable as far as it goes. But it
makes the assumption that what's offered by the different formats is
the same, and should only be considered in the context of current
syndication tools. I think that's a mistake, having the RSS 1.0
available means there is a direct RDF representation of the data.
There is very active RDF development outside the syndication domain
(e.g. this resource list or this), and for WP to cut the direct
interoperability cord would be a retrograde step. Ok, RSS 1.0 may not
be the ideal RDF representation - RSS 1.1 or an RDF/XML serialization
of Atom/OWL would be preferable, primarily because they're both based
on the revised RDF specs which avoid the ugliness of escaped HTML in
content. But RSS 1.0 is supported by virtually every feed reader, and
mass deployment of cleaner RSS RDF/XML isn't likely in the near

I don't really know why the WP folks are even considering removing RSS
1.0, their current source is reasonably well structured, and the
inclusion of the corresponding template for RSS 1.0 is hardly
significant bloat. All they'll really achieve is irritating a segment
of the community.

Speaking personally, I'll echo one of Harry's points:

    As a WordPress user, I like to have options. I want to be able to
choose the format of RSS feeds that I publish. I don't want to be told
what format is the "standard" format and what format is the "right"

For a while now I've had RSS 1.0 as my only feed format, because it
simplifies the kind of experimentation I do.

One point I think that is worth making is that even if they did pull
RSS 1.0 support, it wouldn't be the end of the world for Semantic Web
applications of WordPress. The Atom format is generally sufficient to
provide a good machine-processable representation of the data produced
by WordPress, and deterministic mapping from Atom to RDF is possible
(RSS 2.0 is less suitable because of the spec ambiguities,
non-standard approach to resource (item) identification and broken
content model). For any SemWeb-oriented system that consumes data from
WordPress, the absence of RSS 1.0 isn't a showstopper. However for a
developer working with SemWeb systems, they'll probably be
considerably less likely to choose WordPress if it lacks any RDF
support. To put it another way, I think the SemWeb community is in a
position to say "Go on then, ditch RSS 1.0, see if we care…" ;-)

Ok, so now let's assume that supporting more than one syndication
format is impossible. Which should remain? Here's a quick comparison
of the main alternatives, assigning a value 1, 2 or 3 to various
aspects, with 3 being the best. It is somewhat subjective, but note I
am erring quite strongly in favour of RSS 2.0 by giving
"Human-Legibility" equal weighting with "Not-Brokenness".

Aspect\Format 	RSS 1.0 	RSS 2.0 	Atom
Base Functionality 	2 	1 	3
Not-Brokenness 	2 	1 	3
Extensibility 	3 	1 	2
Adoption 	1 	3 	2
Human-Legibility 	1 	3 	2
Computer-Legibility 	3 	1 	2
Total 	12 	10 	14

Make of that what you will.




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